How We Are Exposed To Lead

Lead is everywhere and affects all of us.

Construction workers are exposed to lead during the removal, renovation, or demolition of structures painted with lead pigments.

Workers also come in contact with lead in solder, plumbing fixtures, rechargeable batteries, lead bullets, leaded glass, brass or bronze objects and radiators. Lead exposure can occur in repair (e.g. radiator repair) and recycling (e.g. lead-acid battery recycling).

Besides workers, CONSUMERS may in affected the following ways:

PAINT: Lead from paint, including lead-contaminated dust, is one of the most common causes of lead poisoning, Lead boosts colour and coverage ability in paints.

WATER: Though lead is not usually found in natural water supplies, it can enter water distribution systems and household plumbing due to corrosion. In particular, lead-based soldering is used to join pipes to water mains and pipes.

FOOD: Food may also be lead-tainted. Vegetables may be contaminated with lead when grown in soil contaminated with lead from paint dust or fuel exhaust. Lead can leach directly into food packaged in tins manufactured using lead soldering. Leaded crystal glassware and lead-glazed bowls and dishes may also taint food.

CANDY: Particularly those containing tamarind, chilli powder or certain salts, may have elevated levels of lead. The precise origin of lead in these products is not clear, though improper processing or storage of ingredients may be to blame.

HOUSEHOLD PRODUCTS: Older or antique furniture, imported glazed ceramics and crafts — can have this metallic poison, hidden in the old paints and glazes used to make these items. Some popular foods are acidic so they leach lead more readily. It is particularly hazardous to serve vinegar, soy, or chili sauce in leaded dipping dishes or serve acidic foods (such as pickled foods) in leaded bowls.

JEWELLERY: Costume pieces and cheap jewellery made of metal were found to contain lead.

TOYS: Items made especially for children sometimes contain lead. Lunchboxes and crayons may be contaminated, while toys passed down from parents to children may be coloured with lead-based paints.

For more info on “Lead and Your Ill Health”, get the guide here


UN Environment Programme
World Health Organization (WHO)
IPEN: for a toxics-free future